Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s signature on the wine-in-grocery stores law had barely dried before he told reporters Thursday he thinks lawmakers may feel pressure to move up the date when people start shopping for bubbly in their supermarkets.
“When people have a referendum in November and realize when they go to the grocery store in December to buy their wine for Christmas they won’t be able to buy it for another year and a half,” Ramsey said, “that will end up being a political problem for a lot of people, in my opinion.”
Grocery stores were willing to give the lengthy lead time to liquor stores in order to get the bill passed, delaying their wine sales until July 2016 but allowing liquor stores to begin selling goods like beer and cigarettes July of this year. Ramsey said he’s always seen that delay as a political problem and said he sees lawmakers wanting to move up the start date at least six months, although added it will not be a part of his own legislative agenda.
“They’ll be lined up to file that, that’s just my prediction,” Ramsey said.
Two weeks ago, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he told House Speaker Beth Harwell the legislature ought to come back a month after they adjourn just in case the governor vetoes anything they’ve passed.
It should be a regular practice, Ramsey explained to reporters Thursday in his weekly press availability. The legislature should schedule it 30 days after they adjourn, he said, but only in the last year of the two-year legislative session so the lawmakers have a chance to reverse any vetoes before a new General Assembly is elected.
“I think the people would expect that,” said Ramsey “When you leave here, any governor has full reign to do whatever he wants to and we can’t do anything about it. I don’t care if it’s (former Gov. Phil) Bredesen, (former Gov. Ned) McWherter, whatever, and that’s not really good practice,” he said.
The last time the legislature held a veto session was in 2001 under then-Gov. Don Sundquist who had vetoed the state’s budget. The legislature did the same in 2000.
House Speaker Beth Harwell was unavailable for comment as of late Thursday.
The governor’s veto power is already one of the weakest in the nation, requiring a simple majority of the legislature to overturn the governor. He has 10 days to reject a bill, but if vetoes come out after the legislature has gone home for the year, the veto typically sits unchallenged.
Gov. Bill Haslam has hinted he would veto legislation that seeks to delay Common Core education standards and it's related test called PARCC. He has also intimated he would veto a bill taking away local government's authority to ban guns in local parks. Both measure appear stuck in committees due to hefty price tags.
Ramsey said wanting to call lawmakers back to veto session is nothing personal against Haslam. “I wish the Constitution said you had to. That would make it a whole lot easier.”
The lieutenant governor appears to prefer the Common Core legislation already headed to the Senate floor to the House's surprise move delaying the PARCC test for two years.
A statement attributable to his spokesman, Adam Kleinheider:
“Lt. Governor Ramsey believes concerns surrounding Common Core are best addressed by measures currently before the General Assembly that prevent data-mining, reform the state textbook commission and block federal intrusion into curriculum.”
Senate Education Committee Chair Dolores Gresham put off a floor vote on her own Common Core bill for a week Thursday. Hers would have set standards protecting student data and reiterated the state, not the feds, sets curriculm. A bill revamping the state's Textbook Commision is scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Monday.
Here's the skinny on what the heck happened in the House that led the chamber to vote 82-11 to delay Common Core and PARCC.
Between high price tags and self-created delays, the House appears unlikely to pass major rollbacks of Common Core state standards this year.
The House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday pushed eight bills dealing with Common Core and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment to their last calendar. The postponement means the bills are likely to be heard in late March or April, leaving little time for the legislature to pass them before its expected pre-Easter adjournment.
All but two of of the bills targeting the education standards or its corresponding test carry price tags of at least $10 million, making them unlikely to pass in a year with down revenues, said Education Subcommittee Chairman Mark White. Others would cost the state up to an estimated $50 million and another would jeopardize federal funding topping out at $525 million.
“With today’s budget, you move a bill like this out, they will have to get their fiscal note in order first,” said White.
The proposals include requiring the state dump Common Core or PARCC tests and developing its own. Others mandate the state reimburse local school districts for the cost of implementing the new standards.
Of the eight bills, half of them were intentionally pushed back to the last calendar at the request of the sponsor, Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale. So was another by Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia. Three others were abandoned Tuesday by lawmakers who failed to make it to the committee to present their bill.
Although most of the legislation dealing with Common Core is stranded in the subcommittee, one easily one won approval Tuesday reiterating the state sets education standards while building transparency about where any data collected goes -- two common issues Common Core critics have with the standards.
“We’re weeding through this slowly but surely to make sure that we’re still picking our own textbooks, to make sure we’re not sharing data with the federal government, to make sure that, again, we’re setting the curriculum,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey Tuesday. “I do believe that most cases that is the case, but if we have to make sure of that by putting in the code, that’s what we’ll do.”
The Senate, which has several forceful critics of the tests and standards, has yet to take up the bulk of their bills addressing Common Core. Lawmakers there expect to take those bills up in a dedicated committee hearing this session.
The lieutenant governor says a bill requiring the General Assembly’s approval on an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program is probably unnecessary, but he has no problems voting for it.
“Is it a redundancy? Probably, but I guess we pass redundant laws here all the time,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters Thursday.
Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, are sponsoring legislation (SB804) requiring the legislature’s approval in order to expand the state’s TennCare program under the Affordable Care Act. Both chambers have the bill scheduled for committee hearings Wednesday.
In order to expand the program, the General Assembly currently would need to approve that spending within in the state budget.
Gov. Bill Haslam has already said he would take any decision to expand Medicaid to the General Assembly — a deal he has been saying he’s trying to strike with the federal government for the better part of a year to extend health coverage to poor Tennesseans funded fully federal dollars for a limited number of years. The governor has said he is still working on an agreement.
“Do I trust him? 100 percent,” said Ramsey. “But I guess there are some that want to say that in law. I don’t think that needs to be said in law.”
Republicans have been critical of talk of expanding the TennCare program. Lawmakers originally sought to ban an expansion of the program but later rolled their effort back to require legislative signoff.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he’s concerned about the role emotions could play as the lower chamber contemplates a bill rolling back local government's authority to ban guns in parks.
House Speaker Beth Harwell said her chamber wants a version "more palatable to local government” and hinted last week she sees a difference between allowing guns in parks with playgrounds and natural areas like Percy Warner Park.
Ramsey says he wants laws about guns in parks as “standardized as possible,” with few exceptions for when guns would not be allowed. When asked what he thought about exempting parks with playgrounds, Ramsey said a change like that would be "purely for emotion," and said handgun carry permit holders should be able to carry their guns in parks statewide.
“Hopefully it won’t be loaded up with things that, again, appeal to emotion and not fact," he said about the bill, which passed the Senate easily Thursday.
Gov. Bill Haslam has voiced “major concerns” about the bill taking away local control, and his administration “flagged” the legislation last month to indicate opposition.
“Surely he won’t veto it," said Ramsey, "but I feel confident if he did I guess we could override it.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey would not predict what financial help the Nashville Amp bus rapid transit project could get from the legislature in 2015, but said state funding for the city’s program is "dead for this year."
“I do want to make sure that we’re using taxpayer dollars wisely and I do think some of this is just, again, emotion, that mass transit is good, cars are bad kind of thing,” the leading Senate Republican said. “And I’m not sure the Amp has ever been proven that it’s exactly what’s needed.”
The Senate Transportation Committee voted Wednesday to block state funding for Nashville’s $175 million bus rapid transit project, a budget amendment spearheaded by chairman Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican and U.S. Congressional candidate. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, was looking for the state to put in $35 million.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Tracy last year received a $5,000 campaign contribution from Lee Beaman, a main Amp opponent. Although Tracy told reporters he did not know Beaman was leading the charge to fight to the project, he said he knew of his opposition.
While Ramsey acknowledged the city is growing as a fast pace, he said Nashville is “not there yet” to need bus rapid transit and said “one year is not going to hurt anything.”
Dean will be termed out of office about a year from now, a fact when pointed out to Ramsey by a reporter led him to laugh and sarcastically reply, "He won’t?"
“This isn’t Atlanta and this isn’t New York City," he said. "Do we have some minor problems? Maybe. But I’m not sure that the city of Nashville is ready for a MARTA or ready for a METRO or anything like that. I won’t say nothing, but I do think we make sure that this is something that will be used and not highly taxpayer subsidized before we’re doing that,” he said.
House Speaker Beth Harwell didn't know about Tracy's budget amendment until after it was approved, the Nashville Republican told reporters. But she said she's unchanged in her opposition to funding the Amp ahead of other projects already on the state's priority list.
"We are underfunding our road projects across the state and I think they [state legislators] felt strongly that this was too big of an ask for any state money to be used for this project," she said. "I would agree with that."
The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill repealing a key compromise built into the 2009 so-called guns-in-parks law, although the House is planning to soften the measure before sending it to the floor.
The upper chamber voted 26-7 Thursday in favor of a bill sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, that would repeal local government’s ability to ban guns in their parks, essentially allowing gun possession by handgun carry permit holders in any park in the state.
The vote landed largely along party lines, although Memphis Democrat Ophelia Ford voted in favor of the bill and East Tennessee Republican Doug Overbey voted against.
Overbey told the Republican Caucus before the vote he’d vote “no,” pointing out the state permits discretion for private businesses to ban guns in their establishments but would refuse that power to local governments.
“To say a city can’t do that doesn’t make any sense to me,” he told the members.
The House version of the bill was taken off notice earlier this month, a moved designed to take a timeout to make the language “a little more palatable to our local governments,” House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters after the Senate vote.
“We believe in Second Amendment rights. We want to be sensitive of that. We also want to be very sensitive of the fact that local governments have their place to play as well. These are local parks financed by our local government, patrolled by our local governments, so I think they should have some say,” she said.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean wrote a letter last month asking lawmakers to reject the bill. Guns are currently banned in Metro's 121 parks and 19 greenways, per a vote by the Metro Council.
Gov. Bill Haslam has expressed “major concerns” over taking authority away from local governments earlier this year. Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey together told newspaper reporters and editors last week they see the issue making it to the floor in both chambers.